To Pill or not to Pill, that is the question. In today’s post I’m going to get straight down to the nitty gritty and talk about 2 of the most common Contraceptive methods on the Market:
The Combined Pill aka The Pill
The Mini Pill aka The POP.
I recently had a complete overhaul of my birth control for health reasons. I will go into this more later in this post. This made my choices of contraceptive pretty limited for the future. Don’t get me wrong there are a shit tonne of options out there. However personal preferences and medical exemptions can narrow that choice down even further. This made me think about how important it is to know what choices are available to you and being informed about each of those choices.
Contraception will inevitably affect every woman at some point in their lifetime.
And unless you are ready to take a punt at motherhood and have a little sproglet running around (and I’m not talking about those man babies we call our husbands/boyfriends). It’s pretty important that your birth control suits your body and needs.
Luckily the web is crawling with information about all different kinds of contraceptives, what they are and what they do. They always contain tidbits of information on the generic side effects. Unfortunately there is no real information highlighting what it is actually like to be using any of these methods. So i’m going to share my personal experience with you guys. In hope that it may give some of you that little extra insight into what it can really be like and what you can possibly expect.
Now just to highlight, everyone’s body is different and what didn’t work for me may in fact work wonderfully for you. It really is a case of trial and error.
So First off, what is the Combined Pill?
The combined Pill is a combination of artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Both hormones are naturally produced by our Ovaries. It is over 99% effective when taken correctly.
The pill works by stopping the release of an egg each month and thickening mucus (kind of gross) in the neck of the womb. It also thins your womb lining to reduce the chances of an egg implanting itself. There are 3 types of the combined Pill:
Monophasic 21-day pills – Each pill has the same amount of hormone in it. So if you’re feeling rebellious and putting two fingers up to the days of the week on the packet. Then go ahead, it doesn’t matter what order you take these in.
Phasic 21-day pills – Phasic pills contain 2 or 3 sections of different coloured pills in a pack. Each section contains a different amount of hormones and need to be taken in the right order.
Every day pills – There are 21 active pills and 7 inactive (dummy) pills in a pack. The 2 types of pill look different and need to again be taken in the right order.
However the most common and the one i will refer to in this post is Monophasic 21-day pills. This comes as a pack of 21 Active Pills. Once you finish the pack there is a 7 day break which is when you will see an artificial period. Once your 7 days are up, pop open another pack (regardless of if you are still bleeding) and then repeat the cycle again.
What is the Mini Pill?
The Mini Pill contains an artificial version of the female hormone progesterone only. It is also over 99% effective when taken correctly. They do not contain Oestrogen and are an alternative to the combined pill for those who are not suitable to take it.
The Mini Pill works mainly by thickening mucus (again gross) in the neck of the womb. In some brands the pills contains Desogestrel which actually stops ovulation completely. There are 2 types of POP one has a 3 hour window and the other has a 12 hour window (Desogestrel). Each pack contains 28 pills and you must take one pill at the same time every single day without fail. There are no breaks in between, so once you finish your packet, you start the next one the next day. Usually you will not have a period however some may see a very light bleed to begin with.
Back to where it all began
I have been on the pill for many years now, since i was 14 years old in fact. Now i wasn’t sexually active when i was 14 however i did have problems with my periods. I could go 6-8 weeks without a period sometimes even longer, I think the worst was 3 months.
During this time i had absolutely no idea when my period would come as it was so erratic. When i did have one it was horrendous. Painful and just ridiculously heavy. And i’ll be honest it wasn’t much fun. Puberty is hard enough without having to carry an endless supply of sanitary products around with you because you never know when one might hit.
Thats when i decided i had to see a Doctor. To cut a long story short, I found out during this time that I actually had a cyst on my left ovary. This meant that my right ovary was working double time to make up for the laziness of my left one. Many ultrasounds later and the threat of keyhole surgery and thankfully the cyst disappeared on its own. Still my periods did not return to normal which was when i was introduced to the Pill.
The Combined Pill – Microgynon 30
Microgynon was the first pill i was introduced to and is the number one choice that most GP’s will prescribe mainly because its cheap. It contains the artificial female hormones Ethinylestradiol and Levonorgestrel.
Being really honest i hated it. Yes my periods started to become a lot more regular however i did not appreciate the weight gain (mainly water weight that just would not shift), the terrible skin or the constant bloat. I could tell my body just didn’t like this pill and the side effects really made no sense. My diet really hadn’t changed so the weight gain was a mystery and i have always been fortunate to have really clear skin.
I was on Microgynon for well over a year when i went back to my GP for a change. Frustrated, i told my doctor i wasn’t happy on Microgynon and that the weight gain was a big deal breaker for me. I had struggled with my weight through school and the fact i was bullied for being “fat”. I’d worked really hard to get into a shape i was happy with. And i spent years educating myself on Nutrition and making better food choices. Aswell as trying every diet under the sun so I really wasn’t willing to reverse all of my hard work.
The Combined Pill – Yasmin
That was when i moved onto a pill called Yasmin. Now i’m sure many of you know of Yasmin and its reputation as the Weight Loss Pill. It doesn’t actually make you lose weight but the active ingredients in this pill are so similar to your real hormones your body doesn’t overreact and make you pile on a shit tonne of water weight. Yasmin contains Drospirenone and Ethinylestradiol.
Before taking Yasmin I did put myself on a diet to lose the excess lbs i was gaining with MG and miraculously the weight started shifting almost immediately. My mood improved, did i mention i was such a bitch on MG? We are talking PMS on Steroids but on Yasmin i had many more good days than bad. Another bonus was that my skin cleared up and for the first time in my adult life my periods came on the same day every month and weren’t as painful as before. Talk about winning. Finally i was comfortable with my birth control, well for now anyway.
The Combined Pill – Lucette
I was on Yasmin throughout the bulk on my adult life however i did get switched over to Lucette around the time i was 24. It is the exact same pill as Yasmin with the same active ingredients just a cheaper version. As we all know the NHS is trying to save money and Yasmin is expensive. The good news is Lucette is a carbon copy of Yasmin, so nothing changed and it worked exactly the same. It just had a different packaging and a different name.
The Migraine Chapter
In 2018 when i turned 27 my whole contraceptive method changed, much to me kicking and screaming in protest. I went in to see my GP after suffering from abnormal pains in my lady region. With my history of the 3 cysts i’ve had and numerous Smears (i will cover this on its own separate post) i was worried. After another ultrasound, everything was fine however i had started to suffer frequently from Migraines. This was a big concern to my doctor and quite new for me.
Now i’ve never really suffered from Migraines. I had 2 in my entire life prior to this and every time they were always accompanied by severe aura.
Aura is a visual disturbance, it usually takes effect before a Migraine and episodes can last up to 1 hour. Imagine looking into the sun. You know those flashing lights and zig zags you get in your eyes? That is how i describe Aura and for me its incapacitating especially as it usually happens at work.
My GP was certain the reason for my pains could be the pill. When I mentioned Migraines. The first thing that rushed out of her mouth was, do you get aura? Obviously I confirmed that i did suffer from Aura with the previous migraines and now after my most recent she was concerned. From that moment on i found myself saying Goodbye to Yasmin. That was a really sad time and hard for me to accept as this pill was a dream.
Migraines with Aura and the Pill
I’m not sure if you know about the link between Migraines with Aura and the Pill but its a big worry for doctors. The Pill comes with many warnings, blood clots, breast cancer, cervical cancer and stroke to name a few. And if you have ever suffered from a Migraine especially a Migraine with Aura then your risk of Stroke is doubled. In the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty small risk overall but doubling that risk is not acceptable to doctors.
My Doctor told me that the increase in Migraines with Aura was a sure fire sign a mini stroke could come at any point. This left me shocked and a little scared. I don’t know how much of this I believed as i was kind of in denial and to be honest i felt rebellious. However reason won out and you have to do what is safe and not put your health at risk so i was moved on to the Mini Pill.
The Mini Pill – Cerazette
My next experience was with Cerazette, a brand of Mini Pill that contains Desogestrel. This meant that i had the buffer of a 12 hour window to take my pill if i missed my daily slot. I would advise never to rely on your 12 hour window though and stick to time you can manage every day.
So you maybe thinking ‘Yay this means no period’. Yay it was not. As much as periods are a pain in the arse, they are a security blanket for me.
I cannot tell you how many times on this pill i had pregnancy symptoms. No period, sore boobs, nausea and many others. I was constantly living in fear of actually being pregnant and with no period to reassure me i panicked alot. I also found that my skin started to break out regularly in spots and blemishes and i did also have some hair loss. I’ll be honest its nice not having to worry about periods but i miss them and i know that this pill doesn’t agree with my body.
Research is key.
I spent alot of time during my time on Cerazette looking into the array of birth control options out there. A few choices i had to rule out such as the Pill, the contraceptive patch and the implant. This was because of the Migraines. And that was ok as i knew my health was more important and i’d heard bad things about the implant.
I have never had any interest in the likes of condoms or the cap. Although i have a long term partner i preferred the safer options and preferably something that would regulate my cycle. After alot of research and decisions my only option that i would feel comfortable with was the copper coil aka an Intrauterine device (IUD). It doesn’t sound like the most glamorous choice actually more like a torture device but its really not so bad when you look into it. And believe me i had scoured the internet for information. I will be having the Copper Coil fitted on Tuesday and i will be doing a post a couple of months post coil to give you an insight into what its like.
So what should you take away from this?
You will get some side effects. Whether thats nausea, headaches, weight gain or spotting/breakthrough bleeding. Everyone is different so what you might experience may be completely different to other women but expect a change in the first 1-3 months. It can take a couple of months for your body to adjust to these hormones
You will get very emotional. When you first start taking a pill the changes in hormones can wreak havoc with your emotions. Every cried for no reason or over something so trivial? This is a little bit more intense. Ever wondered why us women are so emotional. Yeah female hormones!
Conversely you may suffer from Mood Swings. I’m talking PMS Turbo charged. If you do notice a change, closely monitor your mood changes once starting the pill and document these if you are concerned. If you notice this gets worse (it can sometimes develop into depression) or does not go away after 3 months, please go to your doctor.
You may spot or get break through bleeding. Some women experience spotting/irregular bleeding between periods. This is common during the first 3 months of taking a contraceptive pill. This is just your body adjusting to the hormones. It’s more common on the Mini Pill.
You may not get your period right away or at all. Your body is still adjusting in the first month so it may be a couple of months before you know your cycle like clockwork again. If you’re on the Mini Pill you likely will not have a period at all. In either case don’t panic, it usually regulates quite quickly and you get to know when to expect or maybe not expect, in the case of the Mini Pill, a period.
You may not be protected right away. If you are new to the pill, depending on when you first start taking it you may not protected right away. It all depends on your current cycle and timing of taking your first pill. If you start taking your pill after day number 5 of your cycle then it can take a couple of days for the pill to work with your body and give you the protection required. Unless you want that sproglet i mentioned earlier running around, if in doubt always use a back up if you are sexually active.
Don’t be afraid to change it up. If you’re not happy go back to your GP and push to try another pill. The first pill you take may not agree with you and thats ok it is very trial and error. But if you’re not happy please please demand a change. You know your body so listen to what it is telling you and act on that.
Timing is key. If you miss a pill you may not be protected (this is more flexible on the combined Pill). There are a few known instances of ladies falling pregnant on the Mini Pill. This is because you have to be regimental every single day and taking it as early in your allotted window as possible. So ladies always take it as close to the same time every day as possible. Choose a time that you will remember and build it into your routine.
Forgetfulness is Risky. If you’re lousy at remembering and are not quite ready for motherhood then choose another method. There are plenty of options out there that are more suitable for those of us who are forgetful, so go check them out here.
So I hope this post is insightful and gives you some food for thought on the 2 main contraceptive methods. This is my experience so it may not be the same for you so don’t be afraid to try different types of pill. What did not work for me may work perfectly for you so give it a shot and see what happens. There is so much negativity around the pill but they are not all that bad, it really is entirely down to personal experience. Just remember you don’t have to stay on your prescribed pill forever you always have the option to change whenever you want.
Loves, Amy xo
Don’t forget to check out my first blog post. It’s all about New Years Resolutions and sticking to them regardless of when in the year you set them.
If you want to know more about any of the products and methods mentioned in my post. Check out the links below: